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New optic enhances heavy machine guns

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Marines from various units within III Marine Expeditionary Force trained with the first optics system specifically designed for the Mk-19 and M2 .50-caliber Browning machine gun at Range Two on Camp Hansen Sept. 14.

The system, inspired by the rifle combat optic, squad day optic and machine gun day optic for the M16 service rifle, M249 squad automatic weapon and M240B machine gun, respectively, was field-tested by the Marines for potential incorporation into the Marine Corps’ arsenal, said Kenneth Silvers, the new equipment trainer for Marine Corps Systems Command, Headquarters Marine Corps.

The training was a two-day evolution consisting of both classroom time and time on the firing line.

“The first day, we gave the Marines a class on the heavy machine gun sighting system,” said Silvers. “The second day of training consisted of the live-fire portion of the new equipment training package.”

While conducting the practical application portion of the new equipment training, Marines fired practice rounds from the Mk-19 40mm automatic grenade launcher.

“There is no high-explosive charge with these rounds, but the Marines are still wearing full personal-protective equipment,” said 2nd Lt. Erik B. Salzman, platoon commander for Military Police Company, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III MEF.

The new heavy machine gun optic consists of the M520 ballistic extended rail mount, the M521 heavy day optic and the SUQ31 reflex sight, according to Lance Cpl. Matthew D. Khamsihong, a motor transport operator with III MEF Headquarters Group, III MEF.

According to Salzman, the sight system, with all its various pieces, appears large and confusing at first.

“The system can be a little intimidating at first,” said Salzman. “There are a lot of moving parts on it. Once we have given the Marines a class on the new system, and they receive range time with the sights, I am confident they will be able to effectively employ the sights when they are deployed.

One of the dangers in using iron sights on heavy machine guns is the potential for friendly fire incidents when engaging long distance targets, he said. This new optic system decreases that risk by allowing better target identification.

“Normally, any Mk-19 or .50-caliber gunner would end up using only the basic iron sites,” said Khamsihong. “With this system, it improves our accuracy a lot by allowing us to actually sight-in and fire.”

The reason for the development of a heavy machine gun optic is so Marines are able to quickly and accurately engage hostile forces, said Silvers.

“The system was designed to improve first-round hit capability,” said Silvers. “So if we can accurately estimate the range to the target, the first burst coming out of the gun should make contact with the target. If it doesn’t, the day optic has a mil pattern inside which directly relates to the traverse and elevation mechanism for both of the guns. So the gunner can look through the scope, see where he missed the target, and based upon that mil reading, he can actually apply that to the ‘T’ and ‘E,’ so the second burst should always be on target.

“It drastically increases the lethality of both weapon systems,” he added.

The design of the heavy machine gun optic still has potential for some change, Silvers said.

As Marines deploy and use this optic in combat situations, the feedback they give on how they think the system should operate can potentially influence design changes in the next five years, said Silvers.

Find a video demonstrating this weapon system at www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KBoh729ink.

Article by Lance Cpl. Matthew J. Manning, Marine Corps Bases Japan